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Then & Now: The History of the Ferry Building

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Public spaces change fast here in San Francisco, and for better or worse, it can be pretty crazy when you see what the City used to look like. Every week, we'll bring you Then & Now, a comparison of historic photos of the Bay Area with current views from the same perspective. Have a suggestion for a photo comparison that looks totally different (or shockingly the same)? Drop us a tip in the Curbed Inbox or leave a comment after the jump.

Quick note: See that vertical green bar in the middle of the then and now photos? You can move it horizontally to see the photos side by side

[Then photo: SAN FRANCISCO HISTORY CENTER, SAN FRANCISCO PUBLIC LIBRARY/ Now photo: Alex Bevk] Pretty much everyone in San Francisco — no, make that everyone who's ever been to San Francisco — has been to the Ferry Building. What is now home to a world famous farmer's market and boutique shops once functioned as the front door to the port and the City. While the building itself looks remarkably the same on the exterior (thanks to a killer restoration in 2003), its the surrounding areas that have changed.

[Then photo: SAN FRANCISCO HISTORY CENTER, SAN FRANCISCO PUBLIC LIBRARY/ Now photo: Alex Bevk] The existing building was built in 1898 on the site of the original 1875 wooden Ferry House. Before any of the bridges were built, ferry was the only way to reach the City other than coming north from the Peninsula. The ferry building served people arriving by train from the east, as well as commuters from the East Bay and Marin.

The Ferry Building blocked by the Embarcadero Freeway, c1970 [Photo: SAN FRANCISCO HISTORY CENTER, SAN FRANCISCO PUBLIC LIBRARY]

By the 1950's, travelers preferred to drive over the bridges and ferry travel dropped. In 1955, the large open hall was filled in with office spaces, and in 1957 the double-decker Embarcadero Freeway was constructed in front of it, cutting the building off from the city. By the 1970s, Marin ferry service resumed and the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake damaged the Embarcadero badly enough to lead to its demo in 1991.The restoration of the building in 2003 removed the 50s-era office partitions and converted the first floor into a marketplace, with offices above. Today, it's one of the most visited spots in San Francisco.